Consumers flock to online sites

Web retailers bag big gains, with sales for November up 22 percent from a year ago and those for the first post-Thanksgiving week up 34 percent, according to new reports.

Online retailers bagged big gains to start off the holiday shopping season, with U.S. consumers spending $6.2 billion online in November, up 22 percent from a year ago, according to a new report.

Special report

Holiday shopping is being defined by
the outlet malls of Amazon and eBay.


The study, conducted by Nielsen/NetRatings, Goldman Sachs and Harris Interactive, noted that bargain-hunting was a major impetus for online shopping--40 percent of shoppers said that price was a key reason they went online instead of offline. Many stores have been running special promotions on the Web, including free shipping deals, as they try to lure consumers online.

While offline retailers look to the Friday after Thanksgiving as the kickoff to the holiday shopping season, the online shopping season starts a tad later, since many people wait until they get back to work the following Monday to shop the Net.

And shop they did. U.S. consumers spent $2 billion online in the week after Thanksgiving, according to a separate report from ComScore Networks. That's an increase of 34 percent from a year ago. ComScore said sales for Nov. 1 through Dec. 6 reached $8.2 billion, up 29 percent from a year ago.

Individual retailers are also seeing an increase in sales. Online apparel retailer BlueFly reported a 31 percent increase in November sales, to $3.1 million. Overstock.com said it recorded $1.2 million in gross merchandise sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving, up from $337,000 a year ago.

As consumers get more comfortable shopping online, they're branching out into new categories. ComScore reported that home and garden was the fastest-growing category, with sales up 72 percent from a year ago to $328 million. Other categories showing big jumps included sports and fitness, up 67 percent to $153 million, and jewelry, up 66 percent to $121 million.

Amazon.com topped the books, music and video category in the Goldman/NetRatings study, grabbing 35.2 percent of the sales. But eBay, which has begun to challenge Amazon on several fronts, saw its share of the category more than double in November, to 10.6 percent of the market.

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